Sometimes people accuse me of trying to work for my salvation because I believe the verse where Jesus says, “If you love Me, keep My commandments." This concept of obeying God is prevalent all throughout both the Old and New Testaments, yet I know so many who think that the Bible is not relevant for today, that it doesn't speak to our daily lives so much as it just tells us the message of the gospel. "Pray the sinner's prayer and that's the most important thing" is the attitude of so many evangelicals, especially those in the ministry and missionaries. I believe this is one of Satan's biggest lies. There is nothing in Scripture that tells us to pray the sinner's prayer in the first place, although I'm not necessarily against that. But if we use that prayer as "proof" of salvation, we may be damning some to hell by simply not telling them the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I prayed the sinner's prayer when I was five, but I was no more "saved" than the man in the moon. It wasn't until I was well into my adult years that the truths of God's Word sunk deep into my heart.
Although I memorized Ephesians 2:8-9 as a young child, I still remember when it finally "clicked" with me that it actually means something profound. I grew up in a church that believed that each person has the choice to become a Christian or not - all man. Later, I went to a church that believed that you don't have any choice in the matter, that God chooses for you - all God. Wondering why there could be such a dichotomy between two obvious groups of believers, I finally realized the truths of "For by grace are ye saved through faith..." Suddenly, I saw that the grace part was God's part, and that the faith part was man's part. God did the choosing, but man always has a responsibility; God did not create robots to love Him, nor did he just sit up there and hope a few would love Him (no one seeks after God).
But on to the works part. Verse 9 is always quoted with this passage: "Not of works, lest any man should boast." And we stop here, saying works is not a part of salvation. But is that what Scripture really says? What if we go on to verse 10: "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." What? God created us for good works and ordained before that we should do good works? Rather than pass this by, this is what I studied this morning.
One way I love to study Scripture is to make a list of how certain words are used in a certain passage. I just focus on one, or two words if they are related, and make a list of purely what Scripture says about that word. Today, I looked at James 2 and looked at the words faith and works. I will just share my list here with you.
What does it profit if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?
Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
Someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.”
Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!
Faith without works is dead.
Abraham was justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar.
Faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect.
A man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
Rahab the harlot was also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way.
As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
Salvation by grace and faith; justification by faith and works. In other words, there must be fruit! Praying the sinner's prayer will not get you to heaven; works will not get you to heaven. By God's grace and our faith, true salvation will automatically produce good works, good fruit, that should be evident to all who see us. If I don't stand out as being different from the world, because I keep God's commandments, then what is the purpose of my salvation? To escape eternal damnation? No, I was created to do good works for Christ, to glorify God, and to serve Him. I pray that He will enable me to do just that.